Suspected Islamic extremists attacked an agricultural college in Nigeria yesterday, shooting dozens of students as they slept in dormitories and setting fire to classrooms.
As many as 50 students may have been killed in the assault that began at about 1am in rural Gujba, provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture said.
“They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them,” he said.
The Nigerian military has collected 42 bodies and transported 18 wounded students to Damaturu Specialist Hospital, 25 miles north, said a military intelligence official. The death toll may rise.
The extremists rode into the college in two pickup vehicles and on motorcycles, some dressed in Nigerian military camouflage uniforms, a surviving student, Ibrahim Mohammed, said. He said they appeared to know the layout of the college, attacking the four male hostels but avoiding the one hostel reserved for women.
“We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now,” Mr Mohammed said.
Almost all those killed were Muslims, said Adamu Usman, a survivor from Gujba who was helping the wounded at the hospital.
Relatives gathered outside the hospital morgue, where rescue workers laid out bloody bodies in an orderly row on the lawn for identification.
North-eastern Nigeria is under a military state of emergency to battle an Islamic uprising prosecuted by Boko Haram militants who have killed more than 1,700 people since 2010 in their quest to install an Islamic state, though half the country’s 160 million citizens are Christian. Boko Haram means “western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language.
Most schools in the area closed after militants on 6 July killed 29 pupils and a teacher, burning some alive in their hostels, at Mamudo outside Damaturu.
The state commissioner for education, Mohammed Lamin, called a news conference two weeks ago urging all schools to reopen and promising protection from soldiers and police.
Mr Idi Mato confirmed the school’s other 1,000 enrolled students had fled the college.
He said there were no security forces stationed at the college despite government assurances that they would be deployed.
Government and security officials claim they are winning their war on terror in the northeast but yesterday’s attack and others belie those assurances.
The Islamic extremists have killed at least 30 other civilians in the past week. Twenty-seven people died in separate attacks on Wednesday and Thursday nights on two villages of Borno state near the north-east border with Cameroon.
Also on Thursday, police said suspected Islamic militants killed a pastor, his son and a village head and torched their Christian church in Dorawa.
Meanwhile, farmers and government officials are fleeing after threats of attacks from Boko Haram in the area of the Gwoza Hills, a mountainous area with caves that shelter the militants despite repeated aerial bombardments by the military.
A local government official said there had been a series of attacks in recent weeks and threats of more. The official said Gwoza town was deserted when he visited it briefly under heavy security escort on Thursday.
He said militants had chased medical officers from the government hospital in Gwoza, which had been treating some victims of attacks. And he said they had burned down three public schools in the area.